In all honesty, Rumplestiltskin had not expected this turn in his life. Since his childhood, he’d dream of having a proper family someday, and he couldn’t think of anything that would overshadow that dream. Yes, he had magic—magic he barely understood, and that his kind guardians urged him to keep secret. Even so, he had not pictured himself actually honing his abilities as a livelihood. He’d used what magic he could manage to become a successful spinner and weaver. Successful, indeed, all despite his unhappy heritage. But this was a means to an end. It was to prepare to provide for a wife and children, who would not want thanks to his talents, and whom he’d love as he hungered to love and be loved.
Then, suddenly, just as he hoped his relationship with Milah, a childhood friend, seemed to take him in the direction of that life he longed for, a powerful sorceress appeared inquiring about him. For all his efforts to lead a normal life, word of his magic did leak out. Many people were wary of his gifts; Milah, to his relief, was delighted as well as surprised. But before she and Rumple could really talk about what this meant for their future, Lady Cora came to his humble hut. A wizard should not live on such meager means, she told him. Someone of his talent deserved better.
Rumplestiltskin wasn’t sure what to make of anything she said, even when she offered to let him live on her large estate and teach him magic. It did feel foolish to turn her down. But live in her home? As what, besides an apprentice? The idea struck him as strange, since he was now a grown man in his prime, not an adolescent needing guidance from a mentor.
He begged for a night of reflection. Cora granted it, while emphasizing what a waste it would be to reject the offer. Rumple, weighed down by this notion, spun for most of the night to clear his head. His magic turned wool into shimmering shades of the brightest plumage. His mind, like the wheel, circled, focusing on one curious statement Cora had made:
"With your natural ability and my instruction, don’t be surprised if you started turning straw into gold."
Perhaps temptation got him in the end. It wasn’t the only motive, however. Rumple wondered about Cora herself, her life, her powers. She could appear and disappear at will, move objects with a flick of her wrist, even change objects from one thing to another. Curiosity egged him to see what else she could do—if he could ever hope to meet her level.
But something else pushed him into his final decision. It was the memory of his father letting him go, and green light engulfing him and changing Malcolm from a man into a boy. Magic had taken away his happiness. But maybe magic could bring it back, too. Maybe it could wipe away the bad memories people had of Malcolm the Coward, and free his son from the man’s shadow.
The following day Cora returned to find Rumple packed. He had visited Milah to tell her the news, that he wasn’t sure when he’d be back, but promising to return. Instead of simply appearing in the village, the lady traveled by an ornate carriage, lined with velvet and satin, so fancy Rumple was a little embarrassed to even touch it. With a beckoning smile, Cora invited him to climb in first.
Within a few hours, perhaps thanks to magic, they arrived as a grand house and vast grounds. As Rumple stepped down the carriage’s steps, Cora said, “I’m afraid these clothes won’t do.” She waved her hand. Rumple gasped while blue fog wrapped around him, making him momentarily dizzy. It cleared quickly to show that his peasant clothes had changed for a simple but elegant tunic and a warm red robe lined with gold thread.
Though startled by the change, Rumple smiled, radiating gratitude. “Thank you, milady.”
Cora smiled, too, looking pleased either with his appearance or herself. Maybe both. “A new life deserves a new wardrobe, Rumplestiltskin. Now, there’s someone I’m eager for you to meet.”